Imágenes de páginas
PDF
EPUB

or of

Mind, in regard of his goodness and understanding, by the heathens, as much as

y any other name. Neither of those names were proper to insinuate fear; neither was fear the first principle that made the heathens worship a God; they offered sacrifices out of gratitude to some, as well as to other, out of fear; the fear of evils in the world, and the hopes of relief and assistance from their gods, and not a terrifying fear of God, was the principal spring of their worship. When calamities from the hands of men, or judgments by the influences of Heaven were upon them, they implored that which they thought a deity; it was not their fear of him, but a hope in his goodness, and persuasion of remedy from him, for the averting those evils that rendered them adorers of a God: if they had not had pre-existent notions of his being and goodness, they would never have made addresses to him, or so frequently sought to that they only apprehended as a terrifying object. When you hear men calling upon God in a time of affrighting thunder, you cannot imagine that the fear of thunder did first introduce the notion of a God, but implies, that it was before apprehended by them, or stamped upon them, though their fear doth at present actuate that belief, and engage them in a present exercise of piety; and whereas the Scripture saith, “The fear of God is the beginning of wisdom, all religion; it is not understood of a distracted and terrifying fear, but a reverential fear of him, because of his holiness; or a worship of him, a submission to him, and sincere seeking of him.

Well, then, is it not a folly for an atheist to deny that which is the reason and common sentiment of the whole world; to strip himself of humanity, run counter to his own conscience, prefer a private before a universal judgment, give the lie to his own nature and reason, assert things impossible to be proved, nay, impossible to be acted, forge irrationalities for the support of his fancy against the common persuasion of the world, and against himself, and so much of God as is manifest in him and every man ? •

Reason II. It is a folly to deny that which all creatures or all things in the world manifest.° Let us view this in Scripture, since we acknowledge it, and after consider the arguments from natural reason.

The apostle resolves it (Rom. i. 19, 20), 'The invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse.' They know, or might know, by the things that were made, the eternity and power of God; their sense might take a circuit about every object, and their minds collect the being and something of the perfections of the Deity. The first discourse of the mind upon the sight of a delicate piece of workmanship, is the conclusion of the being of an artificer, and the admiration of his skill and industry. The apostle doth not say, the invisible things of God are believed, or they have an opinion of them, but they are seen, and clearly seen. They are like crystal glasses, which give a clear representation of the existence of a Deity, like that mirror, reported to be in a temple in Arcadia, which represented to the spectator, not his own face, but the image of that deity which he worshipped. The whole world is like a looking-glass, which, whole and entire, represents the image of God, and every broken piece of it, every little shred of a creature doth the like; not only the great ones, elephants and the leviathan, but ants, flies, worms, whose bodies rather than names we know: the greater cattle and the creeping things (Gen. i. 24); not naming there any intermediate creature, to direct us to view him in the smaller letters, as well as the greater characters of the world. His name is “glorious,' and his attributes’are excellent in all the earth;'p in every creature, as the glory of the sun is in every beam and smaller flash; he is seen in every insect, in every spire of grass. The voice of the Creator is in the most contemptible creature. The apostle adds, that they are so clearly seen, that men are inexcusable if they have not some knowledge of God by them; if they might not certainly know them, they might have some excuse : so that his existence is not only probably, but demonstratively proved from the things of the world.

Especially the heavens declare him, which God stretches out like a curtain,'r or, as some render the word, a 'skin,' whereby is signified, that heaven is as an open

(1) Gassend. Phys. $ 1. lib. iv. c. 2. p. 291, 292. (m) Prov. ix. 10. Psalm cxi. 10. (n) Rom. i. 19. (o) Jupiter est quodcunque vides, &c. (P) Psalın viii. 1, (9) Banes in Aquin. Par. 2. Qu 2 Artic. 2. p. 78. col. 2. (r) Psalm civ. 2.

book, which was anciently made of the skins of beasts, that by the knowledge of them we may be taught the knowledge of God. Where Scripture was not revealed, the world served for a witness of a God; whatever arguments the Scripture uses to prove it, are drawn from nature (though, indeed, it doth not so much prove as suppose the existence of a God); but what arguments it uses are from the creatures, and particularly the heavens, which are the public preachers of this doctrine. The breath of God sounds to all the world through those organ-pipes. His being is visible in their existence, his wisdom in their frame, his power in their motion, his goodness in their usefulness. They have a voice, and their voice is as intelligible as any common language. And those are so plain heralds of a Deity, that the heathen mistook them for deities, and gave them a particular adoration, which was due to that God they declared. The first idolatry seems to be of those heavenly bodies, which began probably in the time of Nimrod. In Job's time it is certain they admired the glory of the sun, and the brightness of the moon, not without kissing their hands, a sign of adoration. It is evident a man may as well doubt whether there be a sun, when he sees his beams gilding the earth, as doubt whether there be a God, when he sees his works spread in the world.

The things in the world declare the existence of a God. 1. In their production. 2. Harmony. 3. Preservation. 4. Answering their several ends.

First, In their production. The declaration of the existence of God was the chief end for which they were created, that the notion of a supreme and independent Eternal Being might easier incur into the active understanding of man from the objects of sense, dispersed in every corner of the world, that he might pay a homage and devotion to the Lord of all, (Isai. xl. 12, 13, 18, 19, &c.) . Have you not understood from the foundation of the earth, it is he that sits upon the circle of the heaven,' &c. How could this great heap be brought into being, unless a God had framed it? Every plant, every atom, as well as every star, at the first meeting, whispers this in our ears, I have a Creator; I am witness to a Deity.' Who ever saw statues or pictures but presently thinks of a statuary and limner? Who beholds garments, ships, or houses, but understands there was a weaver, a carpenter, an architect ?u Who can cast his eyes about the world, but must think of that power that formed it, and that the goodness which appears in the formation of it hath a perfect residence in some being? • Those things that are good must flow from something perfectly good : that which is chief in any kind is the cause of all of that kind. Fire, which is most hot, is the cause of all things which are hot. There is some being therefore which is the cause of all that perfection which is in the creature; and this is God.' (Aquin. 1 qu. 2. Artic. 3.) All things that are demonstrate something from whence they are. All things have a contracted perfection, and what they have is communicated to them. Perfections are parcelled out among several creatures. Any thing that is imperfect cannot exist of itself

. We are led, therefore, by them to consider a fountain which bubbles up in all perfection; a hand which distributes those several degrees of being and perfection to what we see. We see that which is imperfect; our minds conclude something perfect to exist before it. Our eye sees the streams, but our understanding riseth to the head; as the eye sees the shadow, but the understanding informs us whether it be the shadow of a man or of a beast.

God hath given us sense to behold the objects in the world, and understanding to reason his existence from them. The understanding cannot conceive a thing to have made itself; that is against all reason. As they are made, they speak out a Maker, and cannot be a trick of chance, since they are made with such an immense wisdom, that is too big for the grasp of all human understanding. Those that doubt whether the existence of God be an implanted principle, yet agree that the effects in the world lead to a supreme and universal cause; and that if we have not the knowledge of it rooted in our natures, yet we have it by discourse; since, by all masters of reason, a processus in infinitum must be accounted impossible in subordinate causes. This will appear in several things.

I. The world and every creature had a beginning. The Scripture ascertains this to us. David, who was not the first man, gives the praise to God of his being (8) . For their voice goeth to the end of the earth,' Psalm xix. 1, 2.

(1) Job xxxi. 26, 27. (u) Philo. ex Petav. Theolo. Dog. Tom I. lib. i. c. 1, p. 4. somewhat changed.

(3) Rom. i. 20. ) Gen. i. 'By faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God,' &c. Heb. xi. 3.

all ages

curiously wrought,' &c. (Ps. cxxxix. 14, 15.) God gave being to men, and plants, and beasts, before they gave being to one another. He gives being to them now as the Fountain of all being, though the several modes of being are from the several natures of second causes.

It is true, indeed, we are ascertained that they were made by the true God; that they were made by his word; that they were made of nothing; and not only this lower world wherein we live, but, according to the Jewish division, the world of men, the world of stars, and the world of spirits and souls. We do not waver in it, or doubt of it, as the heathen did in their disputes; we know they are the workmanship of the true God, of that God we adore, not of false gods; by his word,' without any instrument or engine, as in earthly structures ; of things which do not appear,' without any pre-existent matter, as all artificial works of men are framed. Yet the proof of the beginning of the world is affirmed with good reason; and if it had a beginning, it had also some higher cause than itself: every effect hath a cause.

The world was not eternal, or from eternity. The matter of the world cannot be eternal. Matter cannot subsist without form, nor put on any form without the action of some cause. This cause must be in being before it acted; that which is not cannot act. The cause of the world must necessarily exist before any matter was endued with any form; that, therefore, cannot be eternal before which another did subsist; if it were from eternity, it would not be subject to mutation. If the whole was from eternity, why not also the parts; what makes the changes so visible then, if eternity would exempt it from mutability?

1. Time cannot be infinite, and, therefore, the world not eternal. All motion hath its beginning; if it were otherwise, we must say the number of heavenly revolutions of days and nights, which are past to this instant, is actually infinite, which cannot be in nature. If it were so, it must needs be granted that a part is equal to the whole; because infinite being equal to infinite, the number of days past, in

to the beginning of one year being infinite (as they would be, supposing the world had no beginning) would by consequence be equal to the number of days which shall pass to the end of the next; whereas that number of days past is indeed but a part; and so a part would be equal to the whole.

2. Generations of men, animals, and plants, could not be from eternity. If any man say the world was from eternity, then there must be propagations of living creatures in the same manner as are at this day; for without this the world could not consist. What we see now done must have been perpetually done, if it be done by a necessity of nature; but we see nothing now that doth arise but by a mutual propagation from another. If the world were eternal, therefore, it must be so in all eternity. Take any particular species. Suppose a man, if men were from eternity; then there were perpetual generations--some were born into the world, and some died. Now the natural condition of generation is, that a man doth not generate a man, nor a sheep a lamb, as soon as ever itself is brought into the world; but get strength and vigour by degrees, and must arrive to a certain stated

age before they can produce the like; for whilst any thing is little and below the due age, it cannot increase its kind. Men therefore, and other creatures, did propagate their kind by the same law, not as soon as ever they were born, but in the interval of some time; and children grew up by degrees in the mother's womb till they were fit to be brought forth. If this be so, then there could not be an eternal succession of propagating; for there is no eternal continuation of time. Time is always to be conceived as having one part before another; but that perpetuity of nativities is always after some time, wherein it could not be for the weakness of age. If no man then can conceive a propagation from eternity, there must be then a beginning of generation in time, and, consequently, the creatures were made in time.

• If the world were eternal, it must have been in the same posture as it is now, in a state of generation and corruption; and so corruption must have been as eternal as generation, and then things that do generate and corrupt must have eternally been and eternally not have been: there must be some first way to set generation on work.'c We must lose ourselves in our conceptions; we cannot conceive a father before a child, as well as we cannot conceive a child before a father: and (z) Daille 20. Serm. Psalm cii. 26. p. 13, 14. (a) Daille, ut supra. (6) Petar. Theo. Dogmat To n. I. lib. i. c. 2. p. 15. (c) Wolseley, on Atheism, p. 47.

reason is quite bewildered, and cannot return into a right way of conception, till it conceive one first of every kind: one first man, one first animal

, one first plant, from whence others do proceed. The argument is unanswerable, and the wisest atheist (if any atheist can be called wise) cannot unloose the knot. We must come to something that is first in every kind, and this first must have a cause, not of the same kind, but infinite and independent; otherwise men run into inconceivable labyrinths and contradictions.

Man, the noblest creature upon earth, hath a beginning. No man in the world but was some years ago no man. If every man we see had a beginning, then the first man had also a beginning, then the world had a beginning: for the earth, which was made for the

use of man, had wanted that end for which it was made. We must pitch upon some one man that was unborn; that first man must either be eternal; that cannot be, for he that hath no beginning hath no end; or must spring out of the earth as plants and trees do;d that cannot be: why should not the earth produce men to this day, as it doth plants and trees? He was therefore made; and whatsoever is made hath some cause that made it, which is God. If the world were uncreated it were then immutable, but every creature upon the earth is in a continual flux, always changing :e if things be mutable, they were created; if created, they were made by some author: whatsoever hath a beginning must have a maker; if the world hath a beginning, there was then a time when it was not; it must have some cause to produce it. That which makes is before that which is made, and this is God.

II. Which will appear further in this proposition, No creature can make itself: the world could not make itself.

If every man had a beginning, every man then was once nothing; he could not then make himself, because nothing cannot be the cause of something; The Lord he is God; he hath made us, and not we ourselves.' (Ps. c. 3.) Whatsoever begun in time was not; and when it was nothing, it had nothing, and could do nothing; and therefore could never give to itself, nor to any other, to be, or to be able to do: for then it gave what it had not, and did what it could not. Since reason must acknowledge a first of every kind, a first man, &c. it must acknowledge him created and made, not by himself:f why have not other men since risen up by themselves, not by chance? why hath not chance produced the like in that long time the world hath stood? If we never knew any thing give being to itself, how can we imagine any thing ever could? If the chiefest part of this lower world cannot, nor any part of it hath been known to give being to itself, then the whole cannot be supposed to give any being to itself: man did not form himself; his body is not from himself; it would then have the power of moving itself, but that is not able to live or act without the presence of the soul. Whilst the soul is present, the body moves; when that is absent, the body lies as a senseless log, not having the least action or motion. His soul could not form itself. Can that which cannot form the least mote, the least grain of dust, form itself a nobler substance than any upon the earth? This will be evident to every man's reason, if we consider,

1. Nothing can act before it be. The first man was not, and therefore could not make himself to be. For any thing to produce itself is to act; if it acted before it was, it was then something and nothing at the same time; it then bad a being before it had a being; it acted when it brought itself into being. How could it act without a being, without it was? So that if it were the cause of itself, it must be before itself as well as after itself; it was before it was; it was as a cause before it was as an effect. Action always supposeth a principle from whence it flows; as nothing hath no existence, so it hath no operation ; there must be, therefore, something of real existence to give a being to those things that are, and every cause must be an effect of some other before it be a cause. To be and not be at the same time, is a manifest contradiction, which would be, if any thing made itself. That which makes is always before that which is made. Who will say the house is before the carpenter, or the picture before the limner? The world as a creator must be before itself as a creature.

2. That which doth not understand itself and order itself could not make itself. If the first man fully understood his own nature, the excellency of his own soul, the manner of its operations, why was not that understanding conveyed to bis

(4) Petav. ut supra, p. 10. (e) Damason. in Petav. Theo. Dog. Tom. I. lib. i. c. 2. p.

14.

с

posterity? Are not many of them found, who understand their own nature, almost as little as a beast understands itself; or a rose understands its own sweetness; or a tulip its own colours? The Scripture, indeed, gives us an account how this came about, viz. by the deplorable rebellion of man, whereby death was brought upon them (a spiritual death, which includes ignorance, as well as an inability to spiritual action.) Thus he fell from his honour, and became like the beasts that perish, and not retaining God in his knowledge, retained not himself in his own knowledge.

But what reply can an atheist make to it, who acknowledges no higher cause than nature? If the soul made itself, how comes it to be so muddy, so wanting in its knowledge of itself, and of other things? If the soul made its own understanding, whence did the defect arise ? If some first principle was settled by the first man in himself, where was the stop that he did not implant all in his own mind, and, consequently, in the minds of all his descendants ? Our souls know little of themselves, little of the world, are every day upon new inquiries, have little satisfaction in themselves, meet with many an invincible rub in their way, and when they seem to come to some resolution in some cases, stagger again, and, like a stone rolled up to the top of the hill, quickly find themselves again at the foot. How come they to be so purblind in truth? so short of that which they judge true goodness? How comes it to pass they cannot order their own rebellious affections, and suffer the reins they have to hold over their affections to be taken out of their hands by the unruly fancy and flesh? This no man that denies the being of a God, and the revelation in Scripture, can give an account of. Blessed be God that we have the Scripture, which gives us an account of those things, that all the wit of men could never inform us of; and that when they are discovered and known by revelation, they appear not contrary to reason !

3. If the first man made himself, how came he to limit himself? If he gave himself being, why did he not give himself all the perfections and ornaments of being? Nothing that made itself could sit down contented with a little, but would have had as much power to give itself that wiiich is less, as to give itself being, when it was nothing. The excellences it wanted had not been more difficult to gain than the other which it possessed, as belonging to its nature. If the first man had been independent upon another, and had his perfection from himself, he might have acquired that perfection he wanted as well as have bestowed upon himself that perfection he had; and then there would have been no bounds set to him. He would have been omniscient and immutable. He might have given himself what he would; if he had had the setting his own bounds, he would have set none at all; for what should restrain him? No man now wants ambition to be what he is not; and if the first man had not been determined by another, but had given himself being, he would not have remained in that determinate being, no more than a toad would remain a toad, if it had power to make itself a man, and that power it would have had, if it had given itself a being. Whatsoever gives itself being, would give itself all degrees of being, and so would have no imperfection, because every imperfection is a want of some degree of being. He that could give himself matter and life, might give himself every thing.h The giving of life is an act of omnipotence; and what is omnipotent in one thing may be in all. Besides, if the first man had made himself, he would have conveyed himself to all his posterity in the same manner; every man would have had all the perfections of the first man, as every creature hath the perfections of the same kind, from whence it naturally issues ; all are desirous to communicate what they can to their posterity. Communicative goodness belongs to every nature. Every plant propagates its kind in the same perfection it hath itself; and the nearer any thing comes to a rational nature, the greater affection it hath to that which descends from it; therefore this affection belongs to a rational nature much more. The first man, therefore, if he had had power to give himself being, and, consequently, all perfection, he would have had as much power to convey it down to his posterity; no impediment could have stopped his way; then all souls proceeding from that first man would have been equally intellectual. What should hinder them from inheriting the same perfections ? Whence should they have divers qualifications and differences in their understandings ? No man then would have been subject to those weaknesses,

(g) Gen. ii. 17. Psalm xlix. 8. (h) Therefore the heathens called God Tò őn, the only Being. Other things were not beings, because they had not all degrees of being.

« AnteriorContinuar »